Damning inequalities revealed in first major lesbian health study

Significantly more self-harm and suicide than in wider female population
Higher levels of drug use and heavy drinking
Almost half Wales' lesbians still report a recent negative NHS experience

The first major survey ever conducted into lesbian and bisexual women's health in Britain reveals deeply disturbing levels of self-harm, substance abuse and exclusion from routine testing for cervical cancer. Prescription for Change, a survey of 6,000 lesbian and bisexual respondents across the UK, suggests that health services are failing to identify specific healthcare needs among Britain's 1.8 million lesbian population. They are also failing to address specific mental health needs that many women still experience as a result of discrimination.

The survey, the biggest of its kind ever conducted outside America, provides unique new statistics on the mental health, drinking and drug use of lesbian and bisexual women in Britain in 2008:

More than one in five lesbian and bisexual women in Wales have deliberately harmed themselves in the last year, compared to 0.4 per cent of the general UK population.
Over thirty five per cent drink three times a week or more compared to a quarter of women in general.
More than 1 in 4 lesbian and bisexual women in Wales say that they have or have been told that they have an eating problem, compared to 1 in 20 of the general UK population
New legislative protections introduced in 2007 made it unlawful to discriminate against lesbian and bisexual women in the delivery of public services, yet almost half still report having had negative experiences in the health sector in the last year.

Almost fifteen per cent of lesbian and bisexual women over 25 in Wales - almost double the number of women in general - have never had a cervical smear test. Only 51 per cent have had a cervical smear test in the last 3 years, compared to 70% of the women in the UK.

More than half of lesbian and bisexual women in Wales have not disclosed their sexual orientation to health care professionals.

Liz Morgan, Director of Stonewall Cymru, said: "Results of this survey of lesbian and bisexual women should be of concern to health care practitioners. The findings should also serve to alert the NHS in Wales that they need to address their statutory duty towards these women. This report demonstrates the clear need for the current duty on health services to provide equality of treatment on grounds of gender, ethnicity and disability to be extended to include sexual orientation."

The report includes ten key recommendations for the NHS to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery for lesbian and bisexual patients. "We trust that Assembly members and Ministers will take this report seriously and start pushing service providers across Wales to address some of the very stark evidence of inconsistent service delivery revealed by this research." said Liz Morgan.
 
Click here to download a copy of the Wales findings.
Click here to download a copy of the GB research.


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